BY JULIA GREGORY
London Democracy Reporter
The first refurbished flats close to Grenfell Tower have been unveiled to encourage residents to move in.
The flats in the Walkways, which were evacuated on the night of the fatal fire two years ago, have been given a makeover as part of the £58million project to give the homes a new lease of life.
The Government has just put in a further £9million grants and Kensington and Chelsea council is putting in another £18million from capital reserves.
This is in addition to the £30million promised by the Government and council in the autumn of 2017, just months after the fire.
The council worked with the Lancaster West Residents’ Association to draw up a range of designs to improve the estate, which residents claimed had been in a state of managed decline for years.
Their ideas were also costed with one scheme costing an estimated £112million – nearly twice the amount available.
However, doubling the cash from the initial £30million means the council can put in double glazing, new kitchens and bathrooms and do away with the boiler which controls heating on the flats in the Walkways, just near Grenfell Tower.
A replacement boiler was installed near the Walkways after the fire.
Many residents chose not to return to their homes and the council initially and
controversially set them a deadline to respond, which it later relaxed.
The council faces pressure to house people, with 2,000 currently on the waiting list.
It is also planning to build council houses again – with a plan for 600 homes on the drawing board – with half of them on sale privately to help fund the project.
Lancaster West Neighbourhood director James Caspell said each new flat will get modern smart thermostats. The gadgets cost £200 and will “pay for themselves in the year.”
They have a learning function, so they will adapt to the times when heating is in demand and could hopefully save people money – and the environment.
The lack of control over heating in the flats is one of the bugbears of residents in the Walkways.
The new-look homes were designed with the help of 100 Lancaster West residents.
“Safety was one of our major concerns,” said James Caspell.
“We have top-of-the-range smoke alarms which have a radio link – so if there is smoke in the property there is an alert in the flat.”
New internal fire doors are designed to withstand 30 minutes of fire.
New kitchens also boast USB sockets and sinks deep enough to cope with larger pots have also been installed, in line with resident wishes.
Mr Caspell said residents also wanted the council to be culturally sensitive and said they wanted bidet hoses with water pressure in the bathrooms.
The council has a budget of £28,000 for the internal makeover of the empty flats, which increases to £70,000 when external work to improve communal areas and the heating are factored in.
Councillor Taylor-Smith said about 10 per cent of homes on the estate will have
new kitchens and bathrooms by the end of the year.